The most difficult thing about making handmade jewelry is to selling it. Most people start out making jewelry as a hobby and selling it to friends. I started out this way. Selling to gift shops, boutiques, museum shops and jewelry stores that sell handcrafted jewelry is the next logical step. An easy first step is making sure you wear your jewelry all the time and visit stores that you think would carry it. Sometimes a buyer will notice what you are wearing which provides the best opener to begin your soft sell! Converse with the shop owners and store buyers ands sales people and get their feedback. Some of my earliest visits resulted in great feedback but no sales. Listening to my buyers’ comments and showing them my new items over time resulted in customers who not only bought my jewelry but who feel they played a role in my development (and they did!). Never close a door- some of the most critical, difficult buyers will eventually buy from you! My very first buyer in NYC was a woman who gruffly told me to “take that necklace off and give it to me”! She took it on consignment and eventually became my first and best customer.
Try to have enough jewelry in stock so you can have a separate wholesale case marked and organized by collection. Have style numbers and wholesale prices clearly marked. If you sell retail as well, keep another case for that purpose. It will take a while to build up your inventory, but after nine years of selling I know this is less confusing than showing wholesale buyer items that are marked with retail prices. Also it’s best to pin your wholesale items down on padded boards to make the process easier for the buyer to see everything at once. Try to limit the styles, but offer it in different colors. This will be a production advantage. Also offer a few lower priced items so you can maximize your sales.
The discipline of taking a picture and assigning a style number and price to each item is necessary. As your handmade jewelry company grows you will see that there is no escaping unique style numbers and a record of prices. Style numbers also make it more efficient when you are writing up an order. You may want to give the order descriptions as well, especially if you are customizing colors for the customer, but style numbers allow you to write up an order faster and free the buyer to get back to their business!
As I mentioned earlier, have a variety of price points. Some of your items may have larger mark-ups than others based on material costs, design, labor and appearance, but you might also consider a few items without as much of a mark-up. Sometimes a buyer buy quantity that will help you make up for the lower markup. You can set minimums on the lower priced earrings and necklaces if you wish. In the business of unique handmade jewelry you have to sell many units to make a profitable business and not all will be at top dollar. I have sold hundreds of $18.00 earrings that represents a substantial percentage of my total revenue.
You can distinguish yourself as a can do designer by customizing handcrafted items, a change of stone color, a different chain or metal is a way to help the customer’s purchase be unique to the. Encourage custom orders and people will call you when the need arises! Don’t forget to incorporate your buyer’s suggestions. One of my first store buyers insisted on me putting extender chains on all my necklaces. It helps sell the piece by allowing it to fit a wider range of people and to give the item more versatility. Many of my best selling earrings and necklaces come from my buyers.
Whether you take orders manually or use a computer- I use QuickBooks Online – take accurate notes concerning the order. I often take pictures with my iphone so I can remember the details. When you ship the final order, take a color copy, or scan it. Then you have a record of what was in the package and also as a reference for billing and reorders.
A system is going to be necessary if you are serious. Again, I love Quickbooks- but there are other programs that you might investigate. Quickbooks will let you track all invoices, payments, credits and banking related to your business. Always thank customers for payments and stay in touch with them! More later on marketing and promotion of your handmade jewelry business.